3% is the most riveting, uplifting dystopian show you’re not watching

In times like these, it's hard to find a good dystopian hellscape. OK, that statement makes sound like foolishness at the beginning: from The servant tale sweeping the Emmy Awards, to the impious sums that are pushed into projects like altered carbon from Netflix and Amazon's Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick to the ever-expanding relevance of Black Mirror – not to mention, you know, the reality – the hellscapes Dystopics are abundant. Many of them are beautifully elaborated, deep and fascinating, but damn, if the current depressing conditions do not make them more and more difficult to see. As I wrote before about The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale the most shocking stories of the genre have always been highly concentrated and discreet doses of horror. It takes too much time, finding new ways to maintain misery, and you can lose viewers simply because you have depressed them too much.

3% a series of Brazilian suspense produced by Netflix that recently lost its second season, is an exception to this trend. He manages to dodge many of the genre's greatest narrative pitfalls, making this series underestimated one of the most diverse, addictive and refreshing dystopian stories of his era.

The premise of the show is familiar, if not frankly cliché: it takes place in a future São Paulo not far from some of the most populated and impoverished favelas in Brazil today. Each year, children from marginal neighborhoods who have completed the last 20 years can volunteer to participate in the traditional and expected tradition of their society: an elaborate series of physical and psychological challenges known as the Process. The process exists to separate wheat from straw; only the top 3% of each class – those who possess the "merit" required to pass all the tests of the Process – can win the last prize: a new life on the coast, a paradisiacal island technologically and environmentally designed where the inhabitants live on rest of their lives with total comfort, abundance and harmony.

Perhaps, as expected, such extreme economic inequality has not been questioned. A rebel network that calls itself the Cause ( the Cause if it is seeing in the original Portuguese) has grown in the shadows over the years, sabotaging the Offshore Process whenever possible. The so-called "pure meritocracy" of the Process – regardless of the extremely subjective criteria that it involves – has granted the Offshore elite a great deal of goodwill, and therefore it causes great contempt, among the Continentals, to all those who reject the Process that they train and swell their children so that one day they can "have a better life". It has become the basis of the dominant religion, a puritanical faith linked to the "founding couple" that designed Offshore, which assures its followers that the most worthy elect find salvation among three percent.

Among the guerrilla strategies of the Causa is to convince the young recruits of the Process to join the Cause with anticipation, establishing themselves as moles. It is a serious enterprise, as one protagonist learns, Michele: not only must they be good enough (and ruthless) to earn a place among three percent, but they must also work to fly the paradise they have just legalized. As the program progresses, it becomes clear that changing an unequal world is not so easy when the booty of the rich becomes an accessible alternative.

It is a premise that smells strongly of the existing dystopias of YA as The Hunger Games or Maze Runner in which institutions and ruthless adults force young people to compete between yes before incredibly unfair odds. But the irresistibility of the show lies in its execution rather than its novelty. From his diverse and wildly talented cast to his interest in character development and empathy for mind-blowing science fiction concepts, 3% is far more effective – and addictive – in this era than most of his predecessors and current rivals in the dystopian space.

The first season of the series, launched in 2016, followed a group of candidates through the Process, Hunger Games -style. Among them are ambivalent Cause fighter Michele, the cheat Raphael, the determined Fernando, the distant genius Joana, and the titled "legate" child Marco. Many of them are very underestimated: Fernando is paraplegic, Joana is a street thief that nobody likes, and Rafael only manages to bend the rules, and in the end, all of them have been rudely awakened by the dark reality of the dream they have ". I have worked so relentlessly to achieve it.Its second season explores what happens after the Process: the gray moral areas within the Cause and the so-called paradise of the coast, the sedative nature of the overwhelming privilege and the often horrible reality behind the stories that people say they sleep at night.

Despite their radically different motivations – and constantly fluctuating – each character until the roles of tertiary support has so many nuances that all require their emotional investment The Master of the Process puppet Ezequiel is a monster until you learn his background story, the "rich boy" Marco is just a cocky idiot until you understand his family (Although to be fair, he's still a cocky guy). Moles for the Cause turns around in their dedication as they let themselves be seduced by the promise of the Process of a better life. The program is dedicated to representing the complex and lived realities of marginalized people, from dark colored women like Joana to people with disabilities like Fernando, without boasting or voyeurism. (The cast also includes two trans women, their gender identities are never mentioned). They are all human, and each of their options resolves complex issues such as toxic masculinity and neoconservative values ​​with brutal plots and consequences for all.

Conversation of Handmaid & # 39; s Tale last month, I wrote that "the most effective horror [dystopian] is often found in all gray areas … if the & # 39; part within the group & # 39; a dystopia does not seem at least a little attractive to you, even Fahrenheit 451 presented a world that was actively working to end inequality, it just did it the wrong way, it probably will not be a story so powerful. " In 3% nothing is ever black and white, and this nuanced narrative also ends up meaning that nothing is 100% terrible for anyone. Unlike the relentless misery of a show like The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale or the first seasons of Black Mirror there is always hope or relief somewhere in 3% & narrative web at any given time.

Sometimes that relief is dangerous: Offshore is seductively idyllic, which is part of what makes the show more compelling than its contemporaries. Unlike, say, Westworld where external factors constantly affect its smaller world, 3% is functionally autonomous. Whatever the rest of the world is doing, or if people from outside São Paulo have opted for a similarly brutal solution to economic and environmental problems, it is irrelevant: this narrative is so strong, your questions So exceptionally delicate, it does not matter It's such a relevant metaphor that it addresses a simple description of the real world, where economic inequality and the Western-inspired gospel have created a hijacked and self-justifying paradise for the super-rich to whom the rest of us aspire although we resist. In fact, maybe 3% is also generous, after all, in real life, our odds are even worse.